Juanita León is a prominent Colombian journalist, internationally recognized as one of the most respected journalists in Latin America and a benchmark of independent journalism. She is the director and founder of “La Silla Vacía”, an influential digital news site that covers politics and power in Colombia. “La Silla Vacía” has become one of the most read media outlets by opinion leaders in the country.
She studied law at the Andes University in Bogota, and, as a budding entrepreneur, she created Alter Ego magazine dedicated to the presentation of law-related topics from non-juristic perspectives. Juanita was also a co-founder of the Opción Colombia organization, which acted as a bridge between city hall offices and the university when a decentralization process was getting underway. During the same period, she also gathered stories she later used to produce a TV series, Tiempos Dificiles (Hard Times).
Juanita completed a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University in New York City, and then worked for the Wall Street Journal’s Americas edition. Juanita then returned to Colombia, where she held several posts in the media industry.
Juanita is the former editor of the Semana magazine and El Tiempo newspaper. While a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, she began working on the idea of “La Silla Vacia”, and soon after returning to Colombia, she launched during the run-up to Colombia’s 2010 Presidential Election, with a grant from the Open Society Institute.
Her journalistic work has earned her several awards: In 2012, she was a finalist for the Cemex Journalism Award granted by the Foundation for a New Ibero-American Journal-ism. In 2011, the Fundación Liderazgo y Democracia and Semana magazine featured her as one of the leaders of the year. In 2006, she was awarded third place in the Lettre Ulys-ses prize for the art of reportage, for the book “País de Plomo. War Chronicles”. In 2016, she won the Gabriel García Márquez Latin American Journalism Award in the news cover-age category, for her coverage of the justice chapter of the Peace Agreement signed by President Juan Manuel Santos. She was also awarded the Prince Claus Award, granted by the King and Queen of the Netherlands to those that contribute to the culture and develop-ment of their countries, as well as for her "investigative reporting on issues that others do not discuss, setting high standards for Latin American journalism”.
Author of the books “No somos machos pero somos muchos, 5 chronicles of civil re-sistance”, “País de Plomo, chronicles of war” and "10,000 hours in La Silla Vacía"